Learning a Language at a “traveler level”

So, I have talked a lot about my upcoming trip to Hungary and many other things, but in any or other way, language is always present. Despite the course is in English and most of my interactions will be in such language, I do feel it is good to at least pick up basic words and sentences in the local language for a first contact approach. When I started traveling abroad, I was always encouraged by my family to learn certain words, what to say/behave or not in a foreign country, to avoid faux-pas and awkward moments. Even when going to other Spanish speaking countries, I managed to do some things to learn cues and how to be a good traveler and avoid awkward situations (though they are the best memories! however, there are always simple gestures you simply need to avoid at all!).

So, this won’t be rocket science, but more about certain tips to keep in mind in case you might have a trip coming up soon, and you want to learn some basic random vocabulary.

  • A good friend once told me, sure, at a language class I learned about almost everything, but when I traveled to this place, I was surprised when I found out that my supermarket bill became more expensive because I used bags! Such situations will be more common than probably booking a hotel or such, so… what can you do to avoid such bad moments?
    • Check websites of local shops and supermarkets and with a dictionary or even Google Translator (I am well aware I won’t recommend it for serious translations or any of those situations, but it works okay just to get a general grasp of situations). You will understand some things easily this way.
  • Okay, I get it… you must know more or less “the ropes” of a society, but what about expressions… which ones do you recommend?
    • My Polish teacher would call those vocabulary and constructions “first contact”. Those are the expressions and vocabulary you use when meeting people for the first time. My best advice would be using the LanguagePod101.com material on YouTube. In fact, I am using their videos to learn Hungarian phrases! Their videos are quite easy, simple and friendly for those kind of situations. Then, the best way to combine that knowledge would be drilling hard sounds or gaining fluency (as in learning them as a role playing game 😉 ) with an educated native speaker. There are plenty of ways to do contact them (Facebook groups, Hellotalk, Speaky), but I would recommend that you use videochat for that, as you can drill those sounds and see how to move your mouth better than text or voice chatting.
  • I did this and that, but it still sounds foreign for me… what can I do to more or less to be more acquainted with it?
    • Create your own semi-immersion! Consume as much oral media as you can! Films, music or radios are just a click away! YouTube, Tunein Radio or other means are just a click away! They can work perfect with subtitles or a translation nearby or simply as a background noise while working or doing any kind of chore.

I hope you enjoyed my tips 🙂 I will try to keep yourselves updated how I am doing with Hungarian and hopefully, record a short video from Debrecen 😀



  1. Yo también creo que es importante saber algunas frases en el idioma del lugar que uno visita, aunque en rigor, me sentiría demasiado insegura yendo a un país donde no entienda nada de nada, sobre todo en aquellos en que además usan otros alfabetos. Hay lugares donde la gente común y corriente no habla inglés tampoco. A veces me pasó que aunque hablen inglés yo no entiendo si me hablan con un acento raro, muy rápido o muy bajito. Al final, es inevitable que ocurran cosas inesperadas, que a uno lo descolocan, como eso de las bolsas en el super o que en lugares tengas que usar un boleto en el metro y recuperarlo para poder salir de él.
    Ahora con internet se ha facilitado mucho todo, incluso con Google maps uno puede recorrer virtualmente los lugares donde va a ir y ver dónde están los sitios de interés y así evitar que tenga que andar perdida preguntado todo 😉

  2. Great post, Cristobal! I also like your blog’s new design 🙂 Avoiding awkward situations as a traveller has always been a challenge for me. Apart from learning how to say things, you also need to be able to predict (at least to a certain extent) what the other person is likely to say to you in response to what you say – and have an answer ready! Being brave and not worrying about asking people to repeat is the way to go 🙂

  3. I hope you have a great trip to Hungary! 🙂 I remember trying to practice my Italian when I went to Italy, and they didn’t even give me much of a chance. 😛 They pretty much responded back in English bc theirs was much better than my Italian. Felt like I took that Rosetta Stone for no reason! I’m still going to try again next time though.

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